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Environmental hazards associated with hill land development in Penang Island, Malaysia: some recommendations on effective management

Ngai Weng Chan (Ngai Weng Chan is Associate Professor, School of Humanities, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia)

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 1 October 1998


Increasingly, land is a scarce resource which is much sought after in Penang Island, Malaysia. This is because Penang is largely made up of steep topography and much of the lowland areas are already developed. Penang is one of the many rapidly industrialising states in Malaysia with a largely urban populace. In recent decades, efforts at industrialisation and the development of other economic sectors have been intensified, leading to greater urbanisation and greater pressures on land. Although land reclamation has eased the pressures somewhat, it is not enough to satisfy the high demand for land on the island. As such, developers have turned to the remaining hill land on the island. Many hills and their environs are already being developed and many hill projects are in the pipe line. This has led to many environmental problems such as deforestation, decimation of water catchments, destruction of endangered fauna and flora, soil erosion, landslides, water pollution, sedimentation and downstream flooding. Some of these problems have been exacerbated and turned into disasters due to the extremely fragile and sensitive nature of hill ecosystems. Despite such problems, the State Government has decided to lift the freeze on development of hill land since January 1998, and this has effectively opened up all hill land for development on the island. Therefore, hill land needs to be protected and conserved by other means and this study recommends the adoption of a policy of “No development in all ecologically and environmentally sensitive areas”, the setting up of a Hill Land Technical Committee (HLTC) to manage all developments pertaining to hill land and to gazette all hill land in the State, and the use of state‐of‐the‐art remote sensing and Geographic Information System (GIS) technology to monitor and control development activities on hill land in Penang.



Weng Chan, N. (1998), "Environmental hazards associated with hill land development in Penang Island, Malaysia: some recommendations on effective management", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 7 No. 4, pp. 305-318.




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